How cash can promote tropical forest conservation | 3/14/2018 | Staff
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Paying rural villagers to cut down fewer trees boosts conservation not only while the payments are being made but even after they're discontinued, according to a new CU Boulder study involving 1,200 tropical forest users in five developing countries.

The study, published Monday in the journal Nature Sustainability, also found that when forest users trust each other, their conservation efforts are further enhanced even after cash incentives go away.

Pushback - Years - Idea - Money - Incentive

"There has been considerable pushback in recent years against the idea of using money as an incentive to conserve nature," said lead author Krister Andersson, a political science professor and researcher at the Institute of Behavioral Science. "This study shows that under the right circumstances, money can actually induce people to make the right decision for nature longer term."

The study comes at a time when so-called Payments for Ecosystem Services (PES) are becoming an increasingly common tool among policymakers wanting to promote conservation of land, water and forests. More than 550 such programs exist globally already, including programs in Ecuador and Costa Rica, according to an editorial in the same journal.

Research - Programs - Payment - Research - Cash

Research is mixed as to whether such programs work, and little has been done to assess what happens after payment goes away. Meanwhile, some research suggests cash payments can backfire and "crowd out" other intrinsic non-monetary motivations people already have, and thus leave them less likely to conserve after payments are withdrawn than before they started.

To shed light on the debate, Andersson and his colleagues traveled to 54 villages near tropical forests in Bolivia, Indonesia, Peru, Tanzania and Uganda.

Simulation - Game - Forest - Users - Groups

There, they staged a half-day table-top simulation game in which local forest users were divided into groups of eight and asked to make decisions about how many trees they would harvest from a shared forest.

They had the opportunity to earn more than a full day's...
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